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Federal grant will help UMass strengthen education about sexual violence

AMHERST — A mandatory course focused on sexual violence and intervention by bystanders is being developed for all first-year students at the University of Massachusetts.

The online educational program is an outgrowth of a three-year, $270,000 grant awarded to UMass by the U.S. Department of Justice’s office on Violence Against Women.

Enku Gelaye, interim vice chancellor for students and campus life and dean of students, said in a statement that the money will help UMass promote a healthy, safe and respectful campus community.

“This grant reflects our broad-based approach to addressing important issues that affect the lives and academic success of students at UMass Amherst,” Gelaye said.

The Center for Women & Community is the lead department and will coordinate activities that include hiring two new staff responsible for meeting the goals of the grant and organizing others to attend technical assistance conferences.

The grant will also be used to develop online tools so UMass police can follow best practices in responding to sexual and relationship violence and stalking and to improve training for campus judicial hearing boards and staff in the Dean of Students office.

In addition, the money will support creation of a Title IX subcommittee that will review best practices, evaluate campus policies and protocols and recommend any needed changes to the Title IX Coordination Team at UMass.

UMass was one of 28 organizations selected for funding out of 127 applicants seeking $35 million.

This latest grant supplements a three-year, $300,000 grant shared by the Amherst, Northampton and UMass police departments to pay for civilian advocates who assist victims of domestic and sexual assaults. Their jobs include calling survivors directly, meeting with them at the police stations and in courts, and referring them to programs such as Safe Passage, the community-based domestic violence program.

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